As the northern-hemisphere summer gathers pace rosé wine sales approach their traditional annual peak. But is the seasonal nature of this business over? And what impact could this have on vintners who traditionally rush to sell out year-on-year? Tom Smart takes a look at a global market that appears to be maturing.
Warm summer evenings, al fresco dining. A good glass of wine as standard. The colour? These days invariably pink. The bond between rosé wine and sunshine is tangible, which is why many vintners and retailers are currently in the midst of their annual frenzy of stock selling before the sun fades, leaves drop from the trees and the consumer colour preference darkens from a light pink to a deeper red.
But that state of play is evolving. The short-term, sun-soaked and seasonal image of rosé wine which so helped to sell it in the first place is being phased out, replaced by a maturing market where depth and quality are being explored and exposed like never before.
So is this change of direction working?
It certainly appears to be. The global market grew almost 7% from 2007 to 2017 against a backdrop of stagnating still wine sales, leading to rosé wine increasing its market share in all major wine producing/drinking countries.
In France, a country that has traditionally led from the front when it came to the rosé revolution, sales of the pink stuff were accounting for over 30% of all still wine sales way back in 2007, and that is still increasing to the point where it now outperforms white wine in most supermarkets. The UK has begun to mirror these trends in the last two or three years, while the US shows no signs of slowing its consumption rates, particularly on the coasts where the majority is both produced and consumed.
So why the change of direction in the first place?
Quite simply, rosé has grown up. Like your rebellious and edgy younger sibling who returns from their travels having ‘found themselves’, rosé has (for the most part) stopped portraying itself solely as a fun and frivolous summer accompaniment and added depth to its game, allowing it to be taken seriously in almost all wine conversations and making itself available for year-round enjoyment.
It had to happen. Rosé was so profitable initially because it was such a short-term product; from field to consumer in a matter of months. Cheques cashed before next year’s grapes had even been planted. Vineyards rushed to produce it to improve cashflow, but this seasonal nature caused havoc in the supply chain. Old rosé was seen as no good and quickly became a liability creating an annual all-or-nothing, boom-or-bust game. The summer product demanded freshness, and it put many out of business. It also meant that it was never taken seriously as a product, leaving it without a long-term direction.
But the surge in sales has allowed wine makers a chance to focus on it more as a product rather than using it as a short-term cash cow. The market has been tested; consumers all around the world have fallen in love with rosé wine. The need for innovation and complexity has taken hold and vintners are now actively experimenting with production methods, grape varieties and aging processes to produce products that are suitable for any occasion, not just the summer party. It’s all possible when you have confidence in your customer base.
The boom in varieties has led to the widening of the global market; it is no longer just the hot countries you would typically associate with warm weather wine consumption making the most of rosé wine. Even the Russians are getting in on the act, while here in Britain we continue to increase our intake despite a well-known lack of quality summertime.
The variety of hues, blushes and shades are at an all-time high, as are the number of suggested food pairings which were once not even considered due to a perceived lack of complexity. Things have changed.
Despite this, we here at Brand Organic don’t think rosé wine will fully shed its bad-bottle image just yet. The market is still in its infancy, highlighted by a sharp decrease in market share with age of consumer, showing there is still a long way to go before it stand on par with its more traditional red and white counterparts.
Not only this, rosé’s previously mentioned fun and frivolous beginnings helped engage that very millennial audience that saw it as ‘non-snobby’ and accessible. Given this generation will make up 75% of the global population by 2028 it is important that it does not lose its original essence that is still its USP.
So while rosé matures, quite literally, it is now your quintessential ‘gateway wine’, allowing a new generation to access a traditional marketplace that used to seem stuffy and inaccessible. And we think the market will only go from strength to strength as the millennials pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
Rosé wine is moving out of the sunshine but into the light of the year-round mainstream market. The future looks bright for makers of the pink stuff.